(WGHP) – Whether your favorite thing about fall is the cooler weather, pumpkin spice or the return of soup season, one of the best parts about the transition season is the abundance of color that can be found across the country.

As the season changes, leaves turn bright yellow, vibrant orange, blood red, and deep purple before they fall, and we head into the coldest months of the year. 

In North Carolina, leaves are beginning to change as we near the Autumn Equinox on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9:03 p.m. 

As of Sept. 20, a few areas in the Piedmont are seeing minimal to patchy areas of fall foliage. 

The best places in North Carolina to see the leaves change

Linville, North Carolina, landed among a list of the 15 best small towns in the United States for fall foliage by Trips to Discover, a travel website. 

The small NC town includes the highest peak in the eastern Blue Ridge Mountains, Grandfather Mountain. Due to its height, it’s one of the first peaks that shows fall colors. Linville Gorge is known as the “Grand Canyon of North Carolina” and is a breathtaking experience with vibrant colors that can be seen from Wiseman’s View. 

Other NC locations that are known as the best places to view the changing leaves include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah National Forest, Biltmore and Chimney Rock State Park. 

Sunset seen from off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain. (Getty Images)
Sunset seen from off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain. (Getty Images)

When will the leaves change?

The best time to view fall foliage depends on where you plan to seek out the changing leaves. 

Higher elevations, 5,000 ft above sea level or higher, tend to reach peak color first, which leads us to Grandfather Mountain and Linville, NC, as some of the best places to view foliage at the end of September and in early October. 

In the first few weeks of October, you’ll want to head to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A few places that experience peak foliage around this time include Boone, Blowing Rock, Banner Elk and pretty much anywhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the national park and will provide you with incredible views of the vibrant leaves. There’s also a number of overlooks along Newfound Gap Road. 

By the third week in October, the best place to view peak fall foliage will be in areas around 3,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level. This includes areas like Nantahala Gorge and Linville Gorge as well as the Pisgah National Forest. One of the best spots for leaf viewing in the national park is Looking Glass Rock.

Aerial view of a winding road near the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (Getty Images)
Aerial view of a winding road near the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (Getty Images)

At the end of October, the best place to take in the fall leaves is anywhere under 2,000 feet which includes places like Asheville, Hendersonville, and Brevard. 

The remainder of the lower elevations will be on full display from the end of October through the first week in November. Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Hickory Nut Gorge, and Hickory Nut Falls are prime mountain locations for fall foliage at this point in the season.